KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 4: Fall 2015
Memoir: 395 words [R]

Yesterday My Father Was Dying

by Chip Livingston

Yesterday my father was dying, and he asked me why—in a voice so hoarse and dry I had to lean in close to hear him—why I flew two thousand miles. I asked myself: about the odor from the cracked shell of his skin; about his breath, which smelled as if he’d crawled from underneath the house, or drifted up from oceans’ depths, like the one I flew across, only to borrow the truck he could not drive, and race to a gas station for cigarettes, when I had not smoked in years.

I sit out on his front porch swing, another thing untouched since I’ve been here, and watch a trail of ants raise a cricket from the ground. Paralyzed, and I hope numbed, she drags her egg stick along the cement like a broken magic wand, her feelers twitching uselessly as they lift her up and carry her—like the clumsy paramedics hauling my father to the funeral home.

We’re all alone, I thought, that cricket and my father’s wife and me. And we can’t grasp what carries us. It isn’t grief, at least not mine, that moves us to another’s house, for days or weeks, a time of strangers leaving chicken made in casseroles, and frozen, labeled with dates, names, and numbers, like toe tags, so we know where to return the clean dishes and Tupperware.

I sit and smoke, watching the insects scale the bricks, not knowing if the cricket laid her eggs, or where the ants will carry her, or if I give a damn what they do with my father. How would I know what he wanted? I wasn’t here, and we weren’t close. His wife should know better than to ask me if I care if she buries him in her home-town three states away; or if she keeps the urn; or if I want to share his ashes.

Though maybe I do.

There is a hint of rain in this morning’s humid air, and the ants have moved the cricket to the concrete’s edge, where she teeters before falling in the weedy flower bed.

I find their nest: the sand hill’s higher on the western side, to keep the rain from rushing down and flooding them. The hole, too small to fit the carcass underground, is perfect for a final cigarette.


—Previously appears in Stories from the Blue Moon Café III, edited by Sonny Brewer (MacAdam/Cage, 2004) and in the author’s collection of poems, Museum of False Starts (Gival Press, 2010); republished here by author’s permission

Chip Livingston
Issue 4, Fall 2015

is the author of a collection of short stories and essays, Naming Ceremony (Lethe Press, 2014), and two poetry collections: Crow-Blue, Crow-Black (NYQ Books, 2012) and Museum of False Starts (Gival Press, 2010). His writing has appeared in Ploughshares, Mississippi Review, Potomac Review, New American Writing, Gargoyle, and on the Poetry Foundation website.

Livingston teaches creative nonfiction in the low-residency (aka, low-res) MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, and he teaches poetry in the low-res MFA program at Regis University in Denver.

Additional biographical information available at:

Poets & Writers

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

“Talent Can Be Taught”: An Interview with Chip Livingston, Poet, Writer, Teacher, by Natalie Loban in her blog Reflections in a Puddle (15 February 2012); includes Chip’s poem, “Burn”

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